The Power of generative attention – Rob Booth

The Power of generative attention – Rob Booth

The Power of generative attention – Rob Booth

A group of theology students were set a task by their lecturer. They had one hour to write a sermon that they would then deliver to an audience. They could choose the theme and so each student set to work.

The sermon was going to Photograph of a woman walking through leaves on a path through woodland in the autumn. The light is shining through the delivered a short walk from where the students we working. The lecturer placed someone who was in obvious need of assistance en route. One by one, the students were asked to walk over to the lecture theatre to deliver their sermon. Each one of the students ignored the person on the way to deliver their lecture – in theology. Why? Because they were out of the human moment.



This is essentially being in the moment with people – that may be our teams, as line managers, as coaches and mentors. The Human Moment at Work (

We could say lots about things that stop us listening – but what is it that takes us out of the human moment – particularly when we think about our one to one interactions? For me, there are many things:

  • The general chaos of life – working, ferrying people from here to there, what is for tea?
  • Work – especially in the virtual world in which we are now. Back to back meetings with little time for a break. Working with lunch next to me.  Failures and glitches in said technology
  • And then there is me – how I am from day to day.

The human moment rePhotograph of a man standing on a rock wearing a yellow hoodie staring calmly at a waterfallally got me thinking about attention and whether I always give as much as I think I do.
I was talking to a friend about how quickly time seems to pass these days. I was wondering if it is part of an age thing. She said it was maybe because of the fact that we have so much going on, so many places to be people and things to do that time seems to go quicker. I can empathise with that. Does this also affect our ability to listen well? Or at all?

And what is going on when I am ‘in the moment’ with others? In her book Time to Think, Nancy Kline calls these ‘Streams of Attention’. She encourages us to notice these, particularly to ourselves. What reactions do we have to what we are listening to? What feelings does that bring up in us? How we park these so that we return to giving the other person, the Thinker, our full attention?

Nancy Kline believes in the gift of attention. Knowing that you are going to be listened to. Heard. Having that space to say what we want, uninterrupted. How much of a privilege would it be to listen to someone in this way. To give them that space and to talk and more importantly think. It’s a really powerful experience for both parties.

Photograph of a wooden bench beneath a tree shedding its leaves in autumn, both overlooking a still lake in the sunshine

The Thinking Environment (TE) developed by her, supports this and the ten components of the TE bring this to life. DO we pay attention to all of these in our coaching relationships? Do we as leaders encourage others to work this way?

Having this thinking space has helped me to stay in the human moment. Having an awareness of ourselves and our own attention helps too. How will you create yours?

Rob is facilitating our July half-day online Consciously Connected Masterclass Nancy Kline’s Thinking Environment for Coaches and other Listeners. You can book a place using this link: